Fdd's overnight brief

February 29, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Senior members of Hamas’s leadership in exile met in Doha, Qatar, earlier this month amid concerns that its fighters were getting mauled by an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. Enemy troops were killing dozens of militants each day as they methodically overran Hamas strongholds. – Wall Street Journal

The start of Ramadan looms as an informal but urgent deadline to strike an Israel-Hamas cease-fire, as the militant group called Wednesday for mass protests that Israel fears are part of a plan to spread the conflict outside of Gaza during the Islamic holy month. – Wall Street Journal 

An Israeli filmmaker is facing heavy backlash after he used an acceptance speech at a high-profile Berlin awards ceremony to oppose the war in Gaza. Yuval Abraham, whose speech was roundly condemned by German politicians, said he has since received death threats and that his family had fled their home in Israel for safety. – Washington Post 

Canada is working to airdrop humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, a cabinet minister said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Aid convoys carrying food reached northern Gaza this week, Israeli officials said Wednesday, the first major delivery in a month to the devastated, isolated area, where the U.N. has warned of worsening starvation among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians amid Israel’s offensive. – Associated Press

The families of hostages held in Gaza and their supporters are launching a four-day march from southern Israel to Jerusalem to demand their loved ones be set free. – Associated Press

Israel and Hamas are inching toward a new deal that would free some of the roughly 130 hostages held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for a weekslong pause in the war, now in its fifth month […]Here is a look at the emerging agreement.”Associated Press

New Zealand on Thursday listed Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist entity and imposed travel bans on “extremist” Israeli settlers whom it said had committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank. – Reuters

Hamas called on Wednesday for Palestinians to march to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque at the start of Ramadan, raising the stakes in ongoing negotiations for a truce in Gaza, which U.S. President Joe Biden hopes will be in place by then. – Reuters

US President Joe Biden’s administration is considering airdropping aid from US military planes into the Gaza Strip as land deliveries become increasingly difficult, an American official told Reuters on Wednesday. – Reuters

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Wednesday he believes Hamas understands why it should not be part of a new government in the Palestinian territories. – Agence France-Presse

Yahya Sinwar was surprised by the IDF’s maneuver deep into Palestinian territory, according to a statement released by senior security officials on Wednesday. The Hamas leader intended to conduct fighting from an underground fortified base called “Room 6,” which was equipped for extended stays with military personnel and communications lines, according to IDF intel. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: The involvement of Russia as a mediator adds a layer of geopolitical intrigue, suggesting a possible realignment of forces in the Middle East. As these talks unfold, the international community will be watching closely, aware that the stakes extend far beyond the immediate concerns of Palestinian governance, to encompass the broader dynamics of power and influence in the region.- Jerusalem Post

Anne Herzberg write: A Dutch appeals court recently ruled to block the Netherlands from delivering US-owned F-35 military jet parts to Israel. According to the court, the parts, stored by the US in a warehouse located in the Netherlands, allegedly “constitute a clear risk” of being “used in serious violations of international humanitarian law” in Israel’s war against the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza. The decision overruled a lower court decision that had dismissed the case out of hand. –Jerusalem Post

Ran Bar-Yoshafat writes: Israel’s unity government should be commended for standing up with one voice to say “no” to foreign governments that seek to reward terror cartels with unilateral recognition of statehood. But Israel must also fight back against the “settler violence” blood libel, which was used to push the two-state fairytale that, when left unchallenged, led Israel to the brink of an existential international threat. Israel’s story will never end, but the “settler violence” blood libel and the two-state fairytale can and must come to an end. – Jerusalem Post

Yisrael Medad writes:  To return to 2024, not only has Blinken erred in reversing Pompeo’s proclamation, but there can be no doubt that Judea and Samaria, lying west of the Jordan River, are territories legally and legitimately proper for Jewish residence and construction. – Jerusalem Post

Gil Troy writes: Most Israelis remain committed to fighting Hamas until we achieve “total victory” over their military capacity. We hope that even while seeking creative solutions for “the day after,” our American friends don’t forget that great Democratic president’s message – “There never can be a successful compromise between good and evil.” – Jerusalem Post

Steven Simon and Aaron David Miller write: Finally, there is the question of U.S. domestic politics. The Gaza crisis has divided Democrats and unified Republicans in the face of a consequential election. In the region, Israel and the Gulf states would welcome a Trump presidency. Thus far, the Biden administration has been preoccupied by the region’s turmoil, while the Trump campaign has not yet focused on the crisis. The campaign season, however, will undoubtedly make its presence felt as the United States and regional parties plot their next moves. – Foreign Policy

Iran

Iran is holding parliamentary elections on March 1, the first general vote since an uprising, led by women and girls, swept across the country in 2022, calling for an end to the Islamic Republic’s rule. The government violently crushed the protests, but demands for change endure and many Iranians view boycotting the vote as an act of protest. – New York Times

With flashy celebrity ads and promises of deep discounts, a shop in Iran’s capital had offered consumers in the Islamic Republic one of the hottest products in the country — an iPhone that came out in 2021. – Associated Press

Iran is holding parliamentary elections this Friday, yet the real question may not be who gets elected but how many people actually turn out to vote. – Associated Press

A “terror plot” targeting a police car in southeast Iran with a roadside bomb failed on Wednesday, killing one of two militants, a provincial public prosecutor said according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. – Reuters

As Shadi prepares to become a mother for the first time, the Iranian 30-year-old is so concerned about her unborn daughter’s future that she is considering leaving her homeland. – Foreign Policy

Erfan Fard writes: In the shadow of the large-scale Mahsa Amini protests, Iran is poised to conduct legislative ‘elections’ on March 1st, 2024, marking the first electoral event since those anti-regime nationwide demonstrations. – Jerusalem Post

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Iran sent very strong signals between last November and this January that it was pushing the envelope further with its nuclear weapons program. Why, then, did it suddenly slow things down in February? – Jerusalem Post

Saeid Golkar writes: From Khamenei’s perspective, however, high turnout is no longer as crucial to his strategy of homogenizing the elite and personalizing power. He cares less about his public legitimacy, knowing that fewer Iranians care about his claims to religious leadership (according to one estimate, 73% of the public supports the separation of mosque and state). With the regime relying more on political repression to maintain order, Iran’s elections are well on their way to becoming as empty as those in Syria or Russia. – Washington Institute

Russia & Ukraine

After taking the strategic northeast Ukrainian town of Avdiivka two weeks ago, Russian forces have seized three more villages in the past few days, suggesting a growing momentum in their advance even as Western officials warn of the ammunition shortages Kyiv’s military is facing. – Washington Post

Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, warned the European Parliament on Wednesday of possible arrests at her husband’s funeral, which is now set for Friday. – Washington Post 

Ukraine’s president pleaded Wednesday for more ammunition to repel Russian advances as he co-hosted a summit with Albania’s government to build further support for Kyiv among southeastern European countries while signs of war fatigue grow. – Associated Press

On the ground, Ukrainian soldiers are on the defensive, outgunned and outmanned by Russia. In the air, it’s a different story. Over the last two weeks, Ukrainian gunners have shot down almost $1 billion worth of Russian war jets. Last Saturday, on the war’s second year anniversary, Ukrainian kamikaze drones penetrated 300 miles into Russia and caused a big fire at Russia’s largest steelworks. – New York Sun

The Pentagon is mulling workarounds to arm Ukraine as the country faces severe ammunition and artillery shortages amid recent Russian advances. But the department is limited in its ability to fill the gap given President Joe Biden’s funding request for additional Ukraine military aid remains stalled in Congress. – Defense News

Editorial: Meanwhile, Ukraine needs help rebuilding its hobbled defense-industrial base more broadly. Encouraging more joint ventures between EU and Ukrainian manufacturers to develop drones, munitions and other basic military needs will help to share know-how and ensure accountability. Newly announced plans for an ammunition factory in Ukraine, in partnership with Germany’s Rheinmetall AG, help demonstrate long-term commitment to Ukraine’s defense. Allowing the European Investment Bank — currently limited to funding dual-use technologies — to directly support defense production would also help. – Bloomberg

Edward Fishman and Kevin Brunelli write: But Ukraine does not have that much time. The sanctions need to work faster, and the only way for that to happen is for the United States to increase its tolerance for risk. Yet the alternative, in which Russia’s war machine plows ahead while Putin’s imperial appetite remains unquenched, represents an even greater risk than the possibility of jolting oil markets or straining diplomatic relationships. – Politico

Alexander Crowther and Jahara ‘Franky’ Matisek write: Obviously, there is risk involved with any EU force being in Ukraine, but risk aversion is what Putin seeks to exploit. The EU cannot allow itself to be paralyzed by fear that its military might suffer casualties. This would be solely a defensive mission to support the sovereignty and peace of the European continent. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Wilson Beaver writes: In the course of the debate over President Biden’s most recent request for an additional $60 billion in “emergency” taxpayer support for Ukraine, a new argument has emerged: This aid package, while the largest requested so far, is actually not a disproportionate burden on America given how much Europeans have donated in both military and civil society support. Rather than trying to guilt the U.S. Congress into rubber-stamping this assistance, some of our European NATO allies would do better to come clean about their own contributions and accounting. – The Heritage Foundation

Hezbollah

American administration and intelligence officials are concerned that Israel is planning a ground incursion into Lebanon that could be launched in the late spring or early summer if diplomatic efforts fail to push Hezbollah back from the northern border with Israel, senior administrations officials and officials familiar with the intelligence say. – CNN

Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck Lebanese sites from which rockets were launched at Israel’s northernmost city of Kiryat Shmona, the IDF said Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Iran has given Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah the green light to escalate its attacks along Israel’s northern border, the Arabic Post reported on Wednesday, citing high-level Iranian and Lebanese sources. – Jerusalem Post

Egypt

Egypt has signed seven memoranda of understanding with international developers in the fields of green hydrogen and renewable energy in the Suez Canal Economic Zone that could lead to total investment worth around $40 billion over 10 years, a cabinet statement said on Wednesday. – Reuters

China is willing to further promote economic and trade cooperation with Egypt, and to continue to encourage and support its enterprises to invest and start businesses in the African country, the Chinese commerce ministry cited its minister as saying. – Reuters

Egypt has received the first transfers from the $35 billion in funds pledged by the United Arab Emirates, a massive package of financing that brings closer a currency devaluation and should unlock more international assistance. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

A German warship shot down two drones in the Red Sea on Tuesday amid escalating attacks by Yemen’s Houthis and efforts by the European Union to protect international shipping, German officials said. – Reuters

Syrian air defences intercepted Israeli strikes in the vicinity of the capital Damascus, state media said on Wednesday. Syrian state media gave no further details about the attacks or the intended targets. – Reuters

Libya supports South Africa’s genocide case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and is opposed to any normalization agreement with Israel, the foreign minister of the unrecognized eastern Libyan government Abdulhadi al-Hweij, told Maariv in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Steve Coll writes: It may not always work. Mr. Hussein’s case is a paradox. He was erratic enough that it would have been unwise to gamble with America’s security by guessing at his intentions. The better policy was to act on the basis of Iraq’s capabilities and to issue clear and convincing deterrence messages. Yet in the end, America made a profound misjudgment about his weapons of mass destruction capabilities because it failed to understand who he really was. – New York Times

Saud Al-Sharafat writes: The targeting of the American base in Jordan will hopefully contribute to Washington’s rethinking and reassessing of the risks to Jordan’s national security and the security of U.S. bases in Jordan, and cause the United States to take them seriously. Specifically, given the clear security risks facing Jordan, the United States should provide its ally with missile defense systems like the Patriot, which Amman recently requested, as well as anti-drone systems. On the other hand, if the United States withdraws its military forces from Iraq and Syria—because of domestic pressure, Iraqi pressure, or Iranian pressure—this would be a nightmare for Jordan’s national security. The vacuum would be filled by Iran and its Shia armed groups, as well as Russia and Turkey. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for an “industry revolution” in rural regions by building factories nationwide, state media KCNA said on Thursday, amid chronic food shortages and widening economic inequality. – Reuters

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met Meta’s (META.O), opens new tab CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday for talks to explore ways to increase cooperation with the U.S. company in artificial intelligence (AI) and digital ecosystems, Yoon’s office said. Yoon said South Korea’s portfolio of smart home appliances, wearable devices and smart cars offered a good platform for Meta’s AI technology. – Reuters

Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., Victor Cha, and Jennifer Jun write: Notably, we find that vessel movement continues between Najin in North Korea and Dunai and Vostochny Port in Russia, along with some changes in vessel activity between these locations since late December 2023. These voyages have reportedly supported the transfer of more than 2.5 million rounds of artillery shells and other munitions. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

China

China passed revisions to an already stringent state secrets law, broadening the scope of the type of information that would be considered a national security risk in the world’s second-largest economy. – New York Times

The sad fact is that there’s no Chinese equivalent of Mr. Navalny because there’s no opposition party in China, and therefore no opposition leader.It’s not for lack of trying. Many courageous Chinese stood up to the most powerful authoritarian government in the world. Since 2000, the nonprofit humanitarian organization Duihua has recorded the cases of 48,699 political prisoners in China, with 7,371 now in custody. None of them has the type of name recognition among the Chinese public that Mr. Navalny did in Russia. – New York Times

The detention of a Chinese businesswoman trying to recoup unpaid fees from government-backed projects in an impoverished stretch of southern China has stirred widespread outrage over a perceived abuse of state power. The case, centered on a stalled resort development worth tens of millions of dollars, speaks to widespread frustration in China with how authorities are managing the world’s second-largest economy, with previously profligate local governments now struggling to pay their debts. – Wall Street Journal 

The Biden administration on Thursday announced an investigation into possible security risks of Chinese-manufactured autos, saying that modern vehicles are full of sensors, cameras and software that China could use for espionage or other malign purposes. – Washington Post

China banned a top-performing quant fund from the stock-index futures market and vowed tighter oversight of high-speed trading, expanding a crackdown on computer-driven investment strategies that some have blamed for exacerbating market turmoil. – Bloomberg

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been invited to Australia for a two-day visit in the second half of March, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the matter. – Bloomberg

South Asia

India and South Africa have filed a formal objection against an investment agreement at a World Trade Organization meeting in Abu Dhabi, blocking its adoption in a move that observers say could block hundreds of billions of dollars in investment. – Reuters

China has rolled over a $2 billion loan to Pakistan, caretaker finance minister Shamshad Akhtar confirmed in a response to Reuters on Thursday. – Reuters

Sadanand Dhume writes: Pointing out that Hindu nationalists aren’t theocrats by any stretch isn’t the same as agreeing with their vision. […]Over time, India under the BJP may well become a Hindu version of Malaysia, a country where non-Muslims are pointedly treated as second-class citizens. But it will never become a Hindu Iran. – Wall Street Journal

Asia

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told Australia’s Parliament on Thursday that the strategic partnership between the two nations was more important than ever with the rule of law and peace in the region under threat from China. – Associated Press

Australia’s spy chief faced calls on Thursday to name the former politician he said had “sold out” to a foreign intelligence service as a former prime minister’s son said he had been targeted by a group with links to a state parliamentarian. – Reuters

Australia’s Pacific Minister Pat Conroy said there should be “no role” for China in policing the Pacific Islands, and Australia will train more local security forces to fill gaps, after Reuters reported Chinese police are working in Kiribati. – Reuters

More Australians are “being targeted for espionage and foreign interference than ever before,” the head of the country’s domestic security agency has warned. – The Record

Editorial: Along with partners such as Australia and Japan, the US can do more to counter China’s influence among Pacific nations more broadly — by addressing their climate and infrastructure needs, offering trade incentives, and improving digital connectivity in the region. But the first step is for America to follow through on the commitments it has already made. – Bloomberg

Europe

The addition of Sweden and Finland provides NATO with expanded land, sea and air capabilities. Sweden has a strong navy, which would strengthen NATO’s defenses in the Baltic Sea, and builds its own fighter jets. – Washington Post 

The British government said Wednesday that it is stepping up security for lawmakers after politicians reported threats and intimidation connected to the Israel-Hamas war. – Associated Press

Officials in Moldova’s Russia-backed breakaway region of Transnistria appealed to Moscow for protection Wednesday, as tensions escalate with the pro-Western government. – Associated Press

A top European Union official called on Wednesday for a new defense industry strategy to respond to security challenges posed by Russia’s war on Ukraine with the purchase of weapons and ammunition made in Europe at its heart. – Associated Press

The offering by Britain of conditional amnesties to ex-soldiers and militants involved in Northern Ireland’s decades of violence is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), Belfast’s High Court ruled on Wednesday. – Reuters

Cavoli ordered his top lieutenants to come up with a plan to transform Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE)—NATO’s military headquarters in Mons, Belgium, which had lost most of its power after the Cold War—into a proper war command center. […]The effort to remake the alliance’s headquarters is just one element in the most ambitious military reforms that NATO has embarked on in years. – Foreign Policy

Patrick Turner writes: In the run-up to Russia’s invasion two years ago, Western countries made the mistake of drawing down their presence in Ukraine, rather than building it up. We are in danger of making the same kind of mistake again. Whatever the prospects of early recovery of the remainder of Ukrainian territory taken by Russia, we should ensure Russia makes no further gains, in 2024 or beyond. If that means deploying Western troops this year, so be it. Not to fight Russia, but to ensure that Russia cannot progress further.  – Center for European Policy Analysis

Africa

Ghana’s Parliament on Wednesday passed a bill that imposes jail terms on people who identify as L.G.B.T.Q. or organize gay advocacy groups, measures that Amnesty International called among the harshest on the African continent. – New York Times

South Sudan’s government on Tuesday blamed the country’s economic crisis in part on the fighting in neighboring Sudan and the instability in the Red Sea, where Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been attacking international shipping. – Associated Press

Dozens of Burundian troops have been detained for refusing to be deployed to eastern Congo in the fight against the M23 rebel group as it advances toward a major border city, according to army officers, prison officials and other witnesses. – Associated Press

Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday granted reparations of more than 52 million euros ($56 million) to thousands of victims of a convicted commander in the shadowy Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army. – Associated Press

United Nations peacekeepers handed over their first military base to security forces in eastern Congo on Wednesday as part of an eventual withdrawal after decades of operating in the country. The handover comes as violence soars in the conflict-riddled region. – Associated Press

The United States on Wednesday pushed for the United Nations Security Council to take action to help end a nearly year-long conflict in Sudan between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). – Reuters

Heavy gunfire was heard in Chad’s capital N’Djamena near the headquarters of an opposition party, a Reuters witness said on Wednesday, after several people were killed in earlier clashes near the country’s internal security agency. – Reuters

As geopolitical tensions electrify the global scramble for critical minerals—the raw materials that underpin advanced defense systems and clean energy technologies—the United States and China have been racing to expand their influence over the mineral market in Africa. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

Canada’s government is reimposing some visa requirements on Mexican nationals visiting Canada, an official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Wednesday. – Associated Press

Caribbean leaders said late Wednesday that embattled Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has agreed to hold general elections by mid-2025 as the international community pushes to raise money for a foreign armed force to fight gang violenc there. – Associated Press

Indiscriminate violence in Haiti is escalating — especially in the capital and surrounding region — with armed gangs carrying out killings and acts of sexual violence, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the conflict-wracked Caribbean nation said Wednesday. – Associated Press

United States

Since the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 and the start of the war in Gaza, Americans have become more divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than they have been in decades, according to new polling data. The most prominent shift can be found among Democrats, where support for both Palestinians and Israelis has risen at the expense of those who favor not taking sides. – Washington Post 

Dearborn and two other Michigan cities with large Arab and Muslim populations turned against President Joe Biden in the state’s primary after Democratic leaders there warned for months that voters were angry about his handling of the Israel-Hamas war. – Associated Press

The inspector general’s office for the top foreign aid agency in the United States quietly launched an investigation into the U.S. government for funding a terrorism-linked nonprofit group months before the Biden administration awarded it more taxpayer dollars, the Washington Examiner has confirmed. – Washington Examiner

In an unprecedented legal proceeding, the American government opened an investigation into Finkelstein Metals and is examining the government’s conduct, Maariv reported Wednesday morning. – Jerusalem Post

A recent study conducted by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) shed light on changing attitudes among American Jews concerning US backing for Israel. […]Notably, among politically centrist Jews, the percentage that felt that “the US does not support Israel enough” surged from 55% to 67% in the past month. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: The U.S. should seek mutually productive economic relations with Mexico. Benefitting from its trade with the U.S., Mexico has been able to develop its economy, improve the lives of its people, and reduce Mexican-origin immigrant pressure on the U.S. border. All of these things are positive. We should hope trade with Mexico grows. What is not positive is China’s manipulation of Mexico to serve its own ends. Obrador and his government must be made to understand that the U.S. will not allow Beijing’s deceptions to continue, and Washington will take all necessary action to ensure they are ended. – Washington Examiner

Ramesh Ponnuru writes: We should mourn for Bushnell and anyone who loved him. But we should not imbue his suicide with a grandeur it does not deserve. He accomplished nothing good by killing himself. No matter how passionate your beliefs, please don’t follow the example of his senseless death. – Washington Post

Sen. Rick Scott writes: I will continue fighting to eliminate the threats we face from Communist China with port cranes, networked cameras, batteries and energy storage systems, satellite communications technologies, LIDAR, quantum information technologies, microelectronics, AI, biotech and much more. It is critical that we enhance U.S. economic independence and security and end the tyranny of an industry monopoly by the CCP. I won’t stop until our country is completely safe from all threats posed by the importation of Chinese and adversary-backed technologies. – Fox News

Cybersecurity

President Joe Biden is signing an executive order aimed at better protecting Americans’ personal data on everything from biometrics and health records to finances and geolocation from foreign adversaries like China and Russia. – Associated Press

Ransomware payments skyrocketed in 2023, hitting a record-high $1.1 billion extorted from targets of the schemes, according to a Chainalysis report released Wednesday.  – The Hill

Iranian hackers reportedly created a fake site in support of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas to carry out cyber attacks against Israeli targets, the Google-owned cybersecurity firm Mandiant announced on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post 

U.S. and international authorities on Tuesday urged owners of routers used in a Russian botnet operation to ensure the devices cannot still be exploited by malicious actors.- The Record

Ukraine’s military intelligence unit warned that Russia has poured more than $1 billion into an ongoing disinformation campaign aimed to diminish Western support for Kyiv and sow panic and distrust among Ukrainian citizens. – The Record

Defense

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will testify in front of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday morning in what could be a contentious hearing. – Washington Examiner

Officials for the US Navy, US Air Force, and US Army painted a grim picture for the services if they are saddled with a full-year Continuing Resolution (CR) and unauthorised supplemental funding for fiscal year (FY) 2024 during a 28 February round-table media briefing at the Pentagon. – Janes

The long-awaited overhaul of the idle attack submarine USS Boise (SSN-764) is in jeopardy if Congress does not pass a budget, the Navy’s number-two civilian told reporters Wednesday. – USNI News

The Space Force expects to begin early operations of its new Futures Command before the end of this year, according to the general in charge of establishing the organization. – Defense News